Australia Day in 2007

The house across the road from us has a big Australian flag hanging off the balcony. As we walked out to get some lunch we passed youth wearing the flag on their clothing or draped across their shoulders, even while eating at McDonalds. Utes drove past with the miniature flags fluttering from their windows and we saw a 4WD wrapped with many plastic flags on a line. Welcome to Australia Day in the Sutherland Shire.

I used to be very proud of the flag, proud to call myself an Australian. Now my feelings are far more ambivalent. I loathe the way that the flag is increasingly used a symbol of exclusion rather than of bringing many people together. "Kiss the flag" shout the True Blue Aussies. "Love it or leave it!" the bumper sticker slogan on the ute. The government just announced that they were changing the name of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. he drunken, rioting louts at Cronulla (also in the Sutherland Shire) seem to think that citizenship, even residency, of Australia means drinking lots of VB beer, eating meat pies and singing John Williamson songs. Our PM says it's about mateship (I assume that he considers mates as people who donate money to the Liberal Party).

I reject that culture. If some people want to live it, then fine by me, but I want to be able to practice my own version. That's what I thought that you could do in Australia. I feel that we are lucky to have so many different cultures living in one country, to be able to eat different cuisines, celebrate different festivals, hear a multitude of languages. The important thing is that we can share those cultures with each other, no matter what our background (that is what integration should be about). My background is 4th generation Australian on one side of my family and 1st generation immigrant on the other. I was born here, I spend my days working for the benefit of the nation, but I prefer the music of John Williams to John Williamson. And that is my right.

Through my wife and travel overseas I have experienced a number of different cultures and ways of life. There are good and bad in each, but always something to learn from, something that if we could introduce into Australia would improve life here. We should not try to fix our culture but take our relative youth and constantly improve the way we live and the way we act. Lost that fear of change and instead fear the static, staid, intolerant culture that pervades so much of the world.

That's my hope for Australia's future.